300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

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    • History
    • 4.6 • 12 Ratings

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    Booth's Life and Labour Survey

    Booth's Life and Labour Survey

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Booth's survey, The Life and Labour of the People in London, published in 17 volumes from 1889 to 1903. Booth (1840-1916), a Liverpudlian shipping line owner, surveyed every household in London to see if it was true, as claimed, that as many as a quarter lived in poverty. He found that it was closer to a third, and that many of these were either children with no means of support or older people no longer well enough to work. He went on to campaign for an old age pension, and broadened the impact of his findings by publishing enhanced Ordnance Survey maps with the streets coloured according to the wealth of those who lived there.

    The image above is of an organ grinder on a London street, circa 1893, with children dancing to the Pas de Quatre

    With

    Emma Griffin
    Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia

    Sarah Wise
    Adjunct Professor at the University of California

    And

    Lawrence Goldman
    Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    Kant's Copernican Revolution

    Kant's Copernican Revolution

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the insight into our relationship with the world that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) shared in his book The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. It was as revolutionary, in his view, as when the Polish astronomer Copernicus realised that Earth revolves around the Sun rather than the Sun around Earth. Kant's was an insight into how we understand the world around us, arguing that we can never know the world as it is, but only through the structures of our minds which shape that understanding. This idea, that the world depends on us even though we do not create it, has been one of Kant’s greatest contributions to philosophy and influences debates to this day.

    The image above is a portrait of Immanuel Kant by Friedrich Wilhelm Springer

    With

    Fiona Hughes
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

    Anil Gomes
    Associate Professor and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford

    And

    John Callanan
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    The Interregnum

    The Interregnum

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the period between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the unexpected restoration of his son Charles II in 1660, known as The Interregnum. It was marked in England by an elusive pursuit of stability, with serious consequences in Scotland and notorious ones in Ireland. When Parliament executed Charles it had also killed Scotland and Ireland’s king, without their consent; Scotland immediately declared Charles II king of Britain, and Ireland too favoured Charles. In the interests of political and financial security, Parliament's forces, led by Oliver Cromwell, soon invaded Ireland and then turned to defeating Scotland. However, the improvised power structures in England did not last and Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658 was followed by the threat of anarchy. In England, Charles II had some success in overturning the changes of the 1650s but there were lasting consequences for Scotland and the notorious changes in Ireland were entrenched.

    The Dutch image of Oliver Cromwell, above, was published by Joost Hartgers c1649

    With

    Clare Jackson
    Senior Tutor at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

    Micheál Ó Siochrú
    Professor in Modern History at Trinity College Dublin

    And

    Laura Stewart
    Professor in Early Modern History at the University of York

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Journey to the West

    Journey to the West

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the great novels of China’s Ming era, and perhaps the most loved. Written in 1592, it draws on the celebrated travels of a real monk from China to India a thousand years before, and on a thousand years of retellings of that story, especially the addition of a monkey as companion who, in the novel, becomes supersimian. For most readers the monk, Tripitaka, is upstaged by this irrepressible Monkey with his extraordinary powers, accompanied by the fallen but recovering deities, Pigsy and Sandy.

    The image above, from the caricature series Yoshitoshi ryakuga or Sketches by Yoshitoshi, is of Monkey creating an army by plucking out his fur and blowing it into the air, and each hair becomes a monkey-warrior.

    With

    Julia Lovell
    Professor of Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of London

    Chiung-yun Evelyn Liu
    Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

    And

    Craig Clunas
    Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Trinity College, University of Oxford


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Longitude

    Longitude

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the search for Longitude while at sea. Following efforts by other maritime nations, the British Government passed the Longitude Act in 1714 to reward anyone who devised reliable means for ships to determine their longitude at sea. Mariners could already calculate how far they were north or south, the Latitude, using the Pole Star, but voyaging across the Atlantic to the Caribbean was much less predictable as navigators could not be sure how far east or west they were, a particular problem when heading for islands. It took fifty years of individual genius and collaboration in Britain and across Europe, among astronomers, clock makers, mathematicians and sailors, for the problem to be resolved.

    With

    Rebekah Higgitt
    Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland

    Jim Bennett
    Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum

    And

    Simon Schaffer
    Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    The Second Barons' War

    The Second Barons' War

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the years of bloody conflict that saw Simon de Montfort (1205-65) become the most powerful man in England, with Henry III as his prisoner. With others, he had toppled Henry in 1258 in a secret, bloodless coup and established provisions for more parliaments with broader representation, for which he was later known as the Father of the House of Commons. When Henry III regained power in 1261, Simon de Montfort rallied forces for war, with victory at Lewes in 1264 and defeat and dismemberment in Evesham the year after. Although praised for supporting parliaments, he also earned a reputation for unleashing dark, violent forces in English politics and, infamously, his supporters murdered hundreds of Jewish people in London and elsewhere.

    With

    David Carpenter
    Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London

    Louise Wilkinson
    Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Lincoln

    And

    Sophie Thérèse Ambler
    Lecturer in Later Medieval British and European History at Lancaster University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 56 min

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4.6 out of 5
12 Ratings

12 Ratings

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